House Passes Key Immigration Legislation

On March 18, the House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), which would provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and those protected under Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforcement Departure. Nine Republican members joined Democrats, bringing the final vote to 228-197. Also, on March 18, the House passed another piece of immigration legislation, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603), by a vote of 247-174.

The pair of immigration bills constitutes Democratic lawmakers’ first steps to enact major changes to immigration law. In February, Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, a comprehensive immigration bill, which among other provisions, includes an increase in the number of H-1B visas for individuals who graduate from U.S. schools with a STEM degree. The House is expected to take up the U.S. Citizenship Act in April.

While progressive immigration reform is expected to pass in the House, success in the Senate chamber is more uncertain, where a 60-vote threshold must be reached to advance the legislation to a floor vote. CGS continues to work with lawmakers in a bipartisan fashion while advocating for a legislative solution that enables Dreamers and other non-citizens to overcome barriers preventing them from accessing graduate education in the U.S. (CGS policy brief: DACA and Graduate Education).

DHS Issues Temporary Flexibilities for Visa Renewals

On March 11, Secretary of Homeland Security Antony Blinken announced temporary flexibilities for nonimmigrant visa applicants, permitting consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals renewing their visas. The guidance applies to applicants applying for a visa in the same classification that expired within the last 48 months. The new policy is in effect until December 31, 2021.


The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to continue processing nonimmigrant visa applications are essential to ensuring international students can return to the U.S. to continue or complete their programs of study. CGS and the higher education community continue to advocate for the timely processing of visa applications and updated guidance on international students for the 2021 academic year.

NLRB Withdraws Rule Barring Graduate Student Unions

On March 12, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) withdrew a proposed rule that would have permanently prohibited graduate students at private colleges or universities from forming labor unions. The rule would have declared students who are paid in connection to their studies “nonemployees” under the National Labor Relations Act, thus exempt from NLRB oversight. Institutions’ administrations would have had the freedom to recognize student unions only on a voluntary basis.


NLRB has reversed its position on the issue several times in the past. The proposed rule, submitted by a Trump-appointed board, was the first attempt at creating an overarching rule that would have permanently excluded teaching and research assistants from being covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

NIH Launches Initiative to Combat Structural Racism

On March 1, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced UNITE, an initiative aimed at combating structural racism in biomedical research and the broader scientific community. Five committees are informing UNITE’s efforts, with experts across all 27 NIH institutes and centers who have begun to identify short-term and long-term actions to develop and implement strategies to increase inclusivity and diversity in science. NIH is seeking input from the public and stakeholder organizations through a Request for Information (RFI) to identify opportunities and make recommendations to enhance these efforts. The comment period ends on April 9, 2021, and responses will be made publicly available.

CGS Government Affairs Activity

On March 17, CGS joined a FY 2022 appropriations request letter to Congress authored by the Student Aid Alliance advocating for $35 million for the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program. The letter also recommends increases to the TRIO and Pell Grant programs, among others. On March 15, CGS joined the higher education community on a letter thanking Democratic leaders for passing the American Rescue Plan Act (H.R. 1319), which provides significant assistance for postsecondary institutions and students, including nearly $40 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. CGS continues to conduct outreach to Congressional offices to promote regular appropriations and relief funding for specific programs of interest to graduate education